13 Dec 2010, Comments (16)

Wikileaks – My 2c, which I’m sure you don’t need

Author: Helen

Yes, as if you needed another post on Wikileaks and Julian Assange. If the internet had weight it would have collapsed. The whole thing is intermittently exhilarating, but on balance, unspeakably depressing. All the usual dead horses have been flogged back to life and given another run around the track, including in comment threads at a group blog which I frequent. Dead horses like:

-Unless you are have been raped in the socially approved manner, that is, jumped on by a stranger out on a dark night, your allegations of rape or sexual assault must be false, and in this case, must be some kind of deliberate “honeytrap”.

-Discussing “womens issues” like these is diverting attention from the really important things. Will women please stop spoiling everything all the time! *tosses toys out of pram*.

There are two forces at play here which I don’t trust. One is what one commenter described as the “secular canonisation” of Assange. He’s Che! He’s Ned Kelly! He’s… he’s… Jesus! The T shirts are being printed! And the quasi-biblical narrative of betrayal by the Female just go along with the whole excellent adventure.

One writer after another has tried to explain that it’s possible for someone to do useful and effective activist work and be guilty of sexual assault (not pre-empting the court case, just trying to counter the popular notion that a folk hero can’t be guilty) and that one does not necessarily negate the other.

Intelligent people should be able to hold more than one thought in their head at once. The point of this piece, once again, was NOT to speculate on whether Assange did or did not commit a crime — it’s to point out that the media narrative around this story has quickly become depressingly similar to every other media narrative around rape and alleged rape. (That is to say, ugly and victim-blaming.)

Largely, these arguments have fallen on deaf ears. Or eyes. Because Assange is a hero, he can’t possibly have done anything wrong. I’m not the only person who finds this cult of personality a big turnoff.

Living Colour – Cult Of Personality

Because – and this another thing which gives me pause – when the media says that Wikileaks is a fine piece of activism by “the left” and that any subgroup, like women, should shut up and keep quiet about anything negative, because, you know, ruining it for everyone – well, that is all of a piece with the fact that the widespread and active cyberactivist groups, 4chan and its spinoff group Anonymous, are Assange’s defenders, his cyberarmy if you will. And if you identify as feminist, 4chan are no friends of yours. Try googling “4chan” and “women”. While their leader eschews anything so crude, he is also capable, at the turn of the Twentieth century, of writing a sentence like “(For) man to do anything intelligent he has to know what’s actually going on.” The technical skill is cutting-edge, the social consciousness (and thus the will to social justice) is early last century. The massed forces of 4chan and other romantic admirers don’t have any investment in seeing women as human, at all. And Assange might be a romantic hero, but he has no actual control over an “army” of pimply-faced admirers who are prone to statements like “Rule number one of the internet is you don’t piss off 4chan” and “make me a goddamn sandwich”. As Mark B says, “Where is a truly alternative politics? It’s not that of 4Chan or Anonymous.” Or, as my dear old apple-cheeked Grandma used to say, “with friends like those, who needs enemas?”

Problem number two: We think we’re on the same side at first glance, but Wikileaks is aiming to fight top-down government power (by an attack on secrecy) – seeing horizontal layers, if you like. Feminists and anti-racists and others are fighting pervasive power which comes from privilege and which exists at all levels. Seeing vertical slices of power, you might say. (Or once you add the idea of intersectionality, it’s more venn diagrams of overlapping power systems.) Whoa, I am straying into the realm of Theory in which I am unedumacated, but more simply – what’s the outcome of this Excellent Adventure? When we talk about change, some of us don’t seem to want much change, just to unseat the people on top of them. If you know what I mean.

So, Mr Assange, I hope Geoffrey Robertson does you proud and that you do indeed get the full benefit of due process. I hope your two accusers do likewise. And I’m sorry this joy-killing feminist can’t bring herself to think of you as a superhero who cannot possibly do wrong. Women a bit older than me went all starry-eyed and handmaidenish about ultra-charismatic male activists in the 60s, and look how far it got them.

Comments (16) »

  • Shaun says:

    Excellent post and I’ve had similar ideas (except about using the Living Color vid which was a great touch and one of my all time favourite songs).

    I’m a little skeptical of the idea that some sort of revolution is going on. Once it all dies down, we’ll be back to the status quo. Which is rather depressing.

    By releasing so much information (and while some of it is interesting the vast majority is just gossip) Wikileaks has diluted its impact. I’d prefer them to focus on whistleblowing proper as they have done so well in the past. A lot of important information has been buried by out obsessions with that the US though about Rudd.

  • M-H says:

    A friend who once had JA in her house as a guest told me that she had a huge argument with him about feminism. At the time, she said, he had long hair and a beard. He looked like Jesus, he brought his own disciples, and now (she said) he’s being martyred. This is a purely personal view, but it’s from someone I trust and I found it interesting.

    I agree with evreything you’ve said, pretty much.

  • blue milk says:

    Helen, I love your writing. Pure pleasure reading your blog.

  • […] I will be silent, but I would like to point you to the things which have had most resonance for me: castironbalcony and […]

  • Helen says:

    Oh, thank you all. And TC, yes, although Assange has done good work and is in a troubled situation, Liu Xiaobao is equally newsworthy but his story has been swamped. (Not to mention a little thing called Cancun – not a person maybe, but also swamped by the Hero in Trouble story.)And WHAT ABOUT BRADLEY MANNING? The real source of the cables? Noone is suggesting Assange faces as much as 52 years. Why is there no furore about him? Isn’t he the one who’s really putting his arse on the line?

  • Kath Lockett says:

    ‘Discussing “womens issues” like these is diverting attention from the really important things.’

    YES! And yet I’ll shamefacedly admit to immediately assuming that the rape allegations were a beat up due to the focus on all other aspects of JA in the media. But you’re right – he ain’t a superhero who can do no wrong and yet the other charges are very, very worrying.

    It does my head in!

  • Link says:

    I think JA is a fairly extraordinary sort of person, one who has put his political belief into extremely pointy-ended action. He seems with regard to these worldly, rather than personal things, to be one of those few people in our midsts who is not actually a hypocrit. Good on him. But like many if not most of the men on the planet his attitude towards women and sex would appear to be questionable/offensive & dubious. I admire him for the former and deplore him for the latter.

    If wikileaks were to start publishing instances of the manifold acts of violence, intimidation and the collossol injustices always and everywhere towards women across the globe then, they might just start a worthwhile revolution that would go much further towards making our world more truly humane. We already know that men are lying, violent, sycophant, dickheads (or half of us do. What really needs to be publiciced for all of us are the stark realities that exist in the relations between men and women and women in their attitudes towards each other.

    Then we might fucken get somewhere!!!

  • Mindy says:

    Beautifully written Helen. Although I think I probably have to plead mea culpa to a couple of dead horses. I’m afraid though, Link, that I’m not so sure that JA is not a hypocrite. I think he has his own agenda and doesn’t care who gets in the way. But then I don’t know him only what I have read in the media so it’s hardly an edumacated opinion.

  • Ann O'Dyne says:

    one thing revealed by the exposed cables is the innocence of Anwar Ibrahim (we all knew at the time of course). If you don’t recall him: Malaysian interests wanted to bury him so they charged him with the worst thing in their culture – s0d0my – and dragged a mattress into court as proof. idiots.
    The Masses are distracted from the war by secks and that’s that.
    Assange is a creep but those girls have an agenda too. Jim Goad –
    “By the 18th or 19th Wilen had grown frustrated that Assange wasn’t returning her calls, so she phoned that nice organizer lady she met at the seminar—Anna Ardin— inquiring about Assange’s whereabouts.
    As the conversation took the sort of turns that conversations between ladies usually take, both Ardin and Wilen realized they’d both had sex with their Hacker Heartthrob during the previous week.
    In these sort of situations, one of two things typically happens: The women will claw out each other’s eyeballs to win the man, or they’ll team together to destroy him.”

  • Mindy says:

    @ Ann O’Dyne – or they could compare notes and discover that what they thought may have been accidental was in fact the same in each case and unlikely to be coincidental…

    Come on horsie, there must be some life in you yet.

  • Ann O'Dyne says:

    Mindy – I concede that is a very valid point.
    Hopefully, if that’s the case, evidence of it will come out if he gets a hearing before the septics whisk him to the dungeon next to Bradley Manning (who turns 23 today and is probably having a totally rotten time of it).
    I do believe though, that the hysteria over JA, is more about the illogical processes, than over whether he is a raping creep or not. We would be happy IF only Interpol and MI5 went after every alleged rap1st …

  • Fine says:

    Great article Helen. We’re all expected to be running around with Assange t-shirts on now and genuflecting before the god.

  • […] Wikileaks – My 2c, which I’m sure you don’t need | Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony Discussing “womens issues” like these is diverting attention from the really important things. Will women please stop spoiling everything all the time! *tosses toys out of pram*. […]

  • Helen says:

    Known apologists who aren’t saying anything that thousands of apologists are already saying (that is, something new or interesting) are in moderation. That goes double if you’re incoherent.

  • paul walter says:

    Nothing incoherent, except the fear of an open debate and the inability to respond, when challenged with a variant interpretation.
    What induces “incoherence”, is the cowardice of those who purport to seek open conversation on current affairs, who then wipe out a variant view.
    Is that cowardly, or just plain dumb, or just “fascist” ( see if the spaminator “selectively” picks up the word “fascist , at a political web site?).
    What a waste of time, taking the time to offer a viewpoint expressed as honestly as possible, just to have some megalomaniac paranoid zip you out on a whim or unexamined personal prejudice.

  • derrida derider says:

    Oh come on. I reckon its pretty clear here:

    Is Assange a gentleman?
    – no, on his reported actions he seems selfish and immature.

    Did he treat the ladies well?
    No – see previous question.

    Are his lack of gentlemanly manners of interest to the law?
    – almost certainly not on what we know. Morally dubious, maybe, but you can’t outlaw every bit of selfishness and immaturity.

    Is there something very peculiar about the behaviour of the prosecutors in what is clearly a legally (let’s leave “morally” out of it for a moment) very marginal case?
    Yes – it stinks to high heaven.

    If that’s “blaming the victim”, then I’m blaming the victim.

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